Retention key for 49ers as they head for summer hiatus

"I think it's good to just not think about it for like 10 days, two weeks at the most, and then get back into the book," said 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan ahead of a break for he and his players. Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers held the final practice of their offseason program Wednesday afternoon. After meetings and then a barbecue for players, coaches and their families on Thursday, they won't return to the training facility until late July.

There's plenty that can happen in between and it's safe to assume coach Kyle Shanahan will be giving the speech before his team departs about staying out of trouble and in shape over the next six weeks.

But with Shanahan and his staff installing new schemes, there's a lot more to the next month and a half than just staying out of trouble. The biggest key for these Niners is making sure to take some down time, but balancing the need to stay sharp in their playbook so the work of the past couple of months isn't for naught.

"I think everyone is different," Shanahan said. "I think sometimes it's good for guys to get away from it just for a little bit. I don't think you can ever get away from the routine of working out and staying in shape and things like that. Once you get away from that, then you're just fighting to get back. So, I think those guys have got to stay into that consistently. I think the X's and O's they've hit it so hard here through these three phases, I think it's good to just not think about it for like 10 days, two weeks at the most, and then get back into the book.

"The thing that I find out most with guys with the new staff or a new scheme like we have now or even rookies, it's why you try not to judge people too hard through OTAs. Guys come in, you throw everything at them. They go through waves in OTAs, but usually they get away for a month, they come back, and then you actually get to see who guys are, if they're more confident, they know the playbook better and they have a better chance to compete."

Shanahan said he planned to unplug and go with his family to Mexico for vacation and his players will scatter and do some of that as well. Many of them also have plans to ensure they stay on top of the football stuff.

Defensive linemen DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair and Eli Harold will head to Hawaii for a few weeks in early July to work out with Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett. And quarterback Brian Hoyer said he plans to get together with some of his receivers for throwing sessions during the down time.

"It is such a long period of time that you want to get together at least for some period," Hoyer said. "We're aiming for right in the middle of when we leave and when we come back. We'll get as many guys together as we can. You can't accommodate everybody because people are going all across the country. We're going to get together and get three days in and then come back ready to go on July 27th."

The Niners have installed both systems during the offseason but when they get back, they will go through the process again and this time they will have pads on to get a better feel for how things must be executed. Those that take the steps necessary while still on "vacation" will be in a better position to nail down roster spots.

A few more notes and observations from Wednesday's practice:

  • Nothing new in terms of players sitting out during team drills because of injury as linebacker Ahmad Brooks and cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and K'Waun Williams were again limited. The Niners did have one injury scare midway through practice as linebacker Brock Coyle was shaken up during a play. He stayed down for a few moments but eventually made it back to his feet and walked off under his own power. So for the most important stat of the spring, it appears the 49ers made it through the offseason program without any serious injuries.

  • Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster is still on target to be ready at the outset of training camp, according to Shanahan. "There haven't been any updates," Shanahan said. "It's been the status quo. He's been doing great with his rehab. I really have no concerns. I think he'll be more than ready to go by training camp. That's my feeling. I can't promise that, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't."

  • On the practice field, there weren't as many bright spots for the offense Wednesday after some big plays on Tuesday. In fact, during one sequence, the defense came up with interceptions against the 49ers' top three quarterbacks in fairly short order. Safety Eric Reid, cornerback Will Davis and safety Chanceller James came up with those picks and had it been live action, a couple of them might have gone back for touchdowns.

  • It was a sloppy practice in many ways for the offense. They had multiple issues with the quarterback-center exchange and it wasn't limited to just one quarterback. Perhaps the rotating cast of linemen and centers is making it difficult to get a rhythm but those are still the kinds of things that Shanahan won't be happy about. Likewise, there were a few flags for false start. Those are the types of avoidable errors the Niners can ill afford as they work to overcome whatever talent deficit they must overcome.

  • On the bright side, the Niners offense fared much better in red zone work than it had during any of the previously open practices. From the 5-yard line, the Niners scored four times with Hoyer finding receiver Pierre Garcon followed by Matt Barkley hitting tight end George Kittle and receiver Aldrick Robinson and C.J. Beathard connecting with Kittle.

  • Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon got some reps with the first-team defense on Wednesday. He's mostly worked as a backup but with Robinson not participating, it was a good time for the 49ers to bump him up after Keith Reaser and Dontae Johnson handled most of the snaps at outside corner Tuesday.